MarketingSherpa Video Archive

Lead Generation: How Adobe generated a 500% lift in conversion by changing its webinar strategy

Daniel Burstein, MECLABS, and Shelby Britton, Adobe

In this MarketingSherpa webinar replay, learn how Shelby Britton, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Adobe, and her team revamped the entire webinar strategy to achieve a 500% lift in conversion.

Britton sat down with Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS, to discuss how starting in 2010, the team took a closer look at the structure of the webinar program at Adobe and changed the overall strategy of webinar content, invites, landing pages and follow up process. Through this transformation, the team discovered by starting with a "solutions" webinar instead of a "product" webinar, prospects gained value from the best practices learned rather than product demonstrations.

"We really felt like we had to add value first for our target audience before we should ask them to take a look at our product, and that is where you see a lot of our promotion going into," Britton said.

In this webinar, you will learn:
  • How marketers can tell if a webinar attendee is sales-ready, or not

  • How free trials fit into Adobe's webinar program

  • How to provide quality content that leads to a sale

  • What is the best way to invite people to a webinar

  • How far in advance to promote webinars to your audience

  • And many more transferable webinar strategies

Download the slides to this presentation

Related Resources

Lead Qualification: How demographics, email content and behavior helped Adobe boost conversions 500% — See Britton's presentation at Lead Gen Summit 2013

Webinar Marketing: Adobe revamps strategy and achieves a 500% lift in conversion to sale

Content Marketing: Webinar strategy increases registration, lead capture 91%

Lead Generation: 3 basic tips for webinar newbies


Video Transcription

Burstein: Hello, and welcome to another MarketingSherpa webinar. Today, we're going to talk to Adobe about webinar marketing and a really impressive lift and conversion they got from their webinar marketing. Now, we realize this is a little meta, it's a little self referential. It's frankly a little weird to talk about webinar marketing on a webinar. But, this webinar's probably pretty different than most webinars you attend, because it's not about us, it's not about presenting some slides, it's not about presenting some story. The slides are only here to help you. And, the way they can help you, the way you can get involved is using #SherpaWebinar on Twitter. So, #SherpaWebinar on Twitter you can ask your questions to the high performing marketer we have here today. You can also share what works for you in webinar marketing.

We also gave you that opportunity to ask your questions when you registered, and we have a lot of those questions today to ask Shelby. Shelby is senior product marketing manager from Adobe and she is joining us today from Denver, Colo. Thank you for joining us, Shelby.

Britton: Thank you for having me.

Burstein: Shelby has a high-tech marketing background. She's worked in high-tech marketing for nine years, having led the marketing departments for channel partners of IBM and Adobe, and before that, she ran a small business in professional sports entertainment in Calif., which sounds pretty interesting. So a little bit of B2C experience, a whole lot of B2B to experience, a lot of complex sales experience, a lot of webinar experience. My name is Daniel Burstein, I'm the director of Editorial Content here at MECLABS broadcasting live from our offices in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., and I will be tweeting on #SherpaWebinar and will be sharing some further resources about webinars in general and a little bit more about Adobe story we did in Marketing Sherpa case study with Shelby. But we only have 30 minutes today, so let's jump right into it, Shelby.

I've got a question here from Peter, he's a director. He says, “When does the conversion occur?” The conversion occurs in many places, and we're going to talk about some of those farther down the funnel in just a moment.

But first let's look at some of these impressive numbers you had at that first conversion for webinar, the email.

Britton: Right, so every webinar starts with a promotion. In our case, we used email. We found email to be the most effective way to promote our webinars, and you'll see here when I came on and took a look at this program, our average open rate was 17%, and the average clickthrough rate was about 5%. Starting in , we did a major revamp of our program, and what we saw when we revamped the program going back to just the structure of the program and the overall strategy of the program was that we saw open rates increase to 30% and clickthrough rate increasing to 11%, which is obviously going to help us with registration for our webinars, which is the ultimate goal.

One of the ways we got there was because our product webinars, which was a demo of our product, that was the ultimate goal for us, to get prospects in to see a demo of our product. Because for our particular product it was the best way to sell it, was to have somebody take a look at it.

So what I looked at when I came into Adobe and took a look at this webinar program was that we were running a lot of one-off webinars, different topics, different solution focus. Our particular product can be used throughout the entire organization, so five different departments could use this product, so we were talking to five different groups. Five different solution messaging, and really different promotion plans for each webinar themselves. So what I did is I took all of the webinars and I put them into tracks, and that helped people through the funnel, so we really saw this great increase in open rate and click through rate once our webinar strategy made sense to our prospects and target audience and we improved the titles of the webinars. We can talk about that I'm sure at some point in our conversation. Moving away from boring topics, if you will, or boring product focus, hard sales pitches, and really speaking to people on their level and what they were most interested in. So, if they were in the marketing department talking to them about that. If they were in HR, talking with them about training, and that really increased these email open rates.

Burstein: Excellent, and we're going to look at the specific emails in just a moment, but like you said, it was much more than just changing emails that got you that lift in open rates. It was a very big change in your actual process, and we'll look at some of those titles, too.

We have a question here from John; he's a producer. "What's your promotional strategy to attract people to the webinar in the first place?" And, just starting at the beginning, one of your promotional strategies was as you said you were targeting six different characteristics with these webinars and then you really narrowed it down to two. And how did you identify that problem and why did you choose those two?

Britton: We chose these two because for our product what we really had to do is take a step back and look at our product and even though our product could be used throughout an entire enterprise, we had to look at our differentiators and what our product could do the best, and what would resonate the most, and where we can make the most impact. And what we decided was that we were differentiated the most in the marketing space and the e-learning space, so we were going to really attack those two areas, instead of really spreading ourselves thin across multiple different messaging.

We really felt like the market wasn't fully understanding what our product could do, and what it really stood for. So, we had to take a look at that internally and narrow that down, and that affected our webinar program. So at that point, we structured our webinar program into two tracks, if you will. And going back to the promotion piece of it, because we're trying to get people to the product webinar specifically that was the most important goal, well what we were finding was that our registration numbers were pretty low. Our email open rates were pretty low, and what we found after some analysis was this was just too hard of a pitch. It was too much too soon as a first touch.

So, we added a level to the top of the funnel, what we call a solution webinar, which is more of a best practice level. We really felt like we had to add value first to our target audience before we could ask them to come take a look at our product. And, that's really where you see a lot of our promotion going into. All of our dollars are spent at that solution webinar level. We really decided to go with email marketing for the most part. And, we have some more information on how we got to that. We did a lot of analysis, and there's a good slide in here that shows kind of our funnel process, but I'll let you ask the next question.

Burstein: No, let's talk about your funnel process, because as you said, you wanted to not just go directly to the product webinar, but get a solution webinar to drive people to the product webinar.

We have a question here from Sean, who is a business development director. I think it ties very much into what you were doing. He asks, “How can you tell if attendees to your webinar are sales ready or not, meaning ready to talk with a sales rep? If you choose to do a marketing nurture campaign, what's the best method?” And, I think what was really interesting about your process is you're kind of doing both, right, you're nurturing while you're also introducing people to sales, right? And that's what this funnel is showing us?

Britton: Yes, absolutely, and that's a great question. And how we landed on this particular structure, what we decided to do was to put some strategy and structure behind the webinar program. So we started with the solution webinars, like I said, what were really best practice soft touch, and we saw a huge lift in registration numbers, up from 100 registrants we get 1,500, anywhere from 500 to 1,500 registrants at this best practice webinar level. And that's really because we softened our touch. And what this level does for us is when we ask people to come and learn about best practices for e-learning or best practices about marketing webinars, what we're doing is giving a soft touch. They're more willing to talk to us. They want to come, they're learning something valuable that's going to help them in their job that's relevant to our product. And, this tells us two things when they register for this level of webinar. One, they either already have an e-learning or marketing webinar program in place, or they're considering it. So that tells us we're talking to our right audience.

So, I would suggest that if you implement this level, do something at this level that's going to be relevant to your audience, you're drawing in the right people and starting a conversation with the perfect target audience that you want to talk with. Then, once they register for that webinar, we invited them to come see a product webinar, because they had already started a conversation with us; they've been introduced to us, we know them, we've added some value, and then when we ask them to take the next step of seeing a product webinar and seeing a demo of our product, we got a much better response rate. The numbers at this level went up also, and we saw more people responding and saying, "Yes, OK, now we want to see a demo of your product." So that really added a lot of success to our program.

In the last year or so, we added another level because what we saw for our particular buyers and shoppers was that they wanted to do some competitive comparisons, and we wanted to be a part of that conversation. So after they saw a demo of our product, we asked them to come to the competitive comparison webinar, and that was a monthly webinar that we added to the program, another level. So yes, we're nurturing along the way, and when they hit the product webinar level, if they registered to see a demo or they registered for the competitive comparison webinar then we sent them to Sales. We did not send the solution webinar registrants to Sales, because we didn't feel like they were Sales ready. All they had really told us was they were interested in the product category, if you will, of our product. They hadn't told us that they were shopping yet, and they hadn't told us that they were interesting in our product. And that would have been a waste of our Sales rep's time.

Burstein: And so it's that "take a look," and you brought them even farther down the funnel. We have some conversion numbers here as well and you can see the two tracks. But, let's talk about the step you brought them farther down the funnel, because we have a question here from Cory, a marketing manager, who I think totally nails your strategy.

Cory asks, "How much did you utilize the AOL free 30-day trial approach, or is that insignificant in terms of how you targeted your markets and took Adobe to the artist's agencies who buy it and use it?"

So, when I think of those AOL 30-day free trial, I think how they mass mailed all those CDs out and I used to use them as coasters. But, you did use the trial in a way, but you used it not as a weld and sparing people, but you delivered value throughout the process, and then you introduced the trial, right?

Britton: Exactly. We didn't feel like the trial was a first touch. We didn't build campaigns around driving people to trial. We felt like that was an inappropriate first touch. What we did find when we looked at the sales cycle that our buyers typically went through, was that they would absolutely sign up for a trial, usually as one of the last steps and certainly they would definitely do it before they purchased. So, it was definitely a step that they made before they purchased, and it was somewhere down the bottom of the funnel. So, we felt like that was an appropriate moment to ask them to sign up for a trial and test our product after they had seen a demo, after they had seen a competitive comparison. Then, we would ask them to sign up for a trial. And, we get about a 30% conversion rate there at the bottom of this whole funnel.

We always support the trial with a training, we have a daily training webinar program that supports the trial. And what we found was when people signed up for a trial, if it's appropriate for you to have a trial of your product, I think it's also important to support that trial, because once you get the trial sometimes you don't know what to do with it, and our customers were finding they just didn't know what to do with it once they signed up. They needed some help and some guidance. And, we wanted to make sure they used the trial within the 30 days that they had instead of just signing up for it and never using it. So, we invited them to come to a training and help them along the process and taught them how to use the product.

Burstein: And so, let's talk about how you got people into that first webinar. As you talked about, you changed the titles drastically, because you were no longer just promoting a product, but you were rather promoting value or teaching people how to do something better.

And, we have this question here from Sean. He's a president and says, "How do you provide quality content that leads to a sale without coming off as pitching even though that is what you're doing?" And, I think I may challenge Sean a little bit on that, because I believe what you learned, Shelby, is not to pitch, not to pitch it first, at least; just to provide value. And, that's what we see here in these titles, right?

Britton: Absolutely, I agree that you don't want to do a hard pitch to somebody you don't know. I kind of think of that like showing up at somebody's doorstep at dinner and knocking at their door and trying to sell them like Christmas wrapping paper in July. It's totally not relevant, it's not the right time, and it's pretty rude.

So what we found was when you're doing ... these old titles you can see were very product pitchy, and they just didn't resonate with people. They didn't know who we were. And so when we tried to add value by teaching some things and adding some best practices where they could do their job better and you can see these titles on the right were all related to our product, but they weren't product forward. They weren't pitching the product yet. It was best practices and tips and tricks on how they can do their job better.

Burstein: I've got to say I love the title, "From Blah to Aha." It just kind of grabs me. Another one, "How to be a Great Webinar Moderator." And at the end, Shelby will be also talking about not just how she promoted the webinars, but some tips for speaking on your own webinars and getting speakers for your own webinars, having engaging webinar content.

So now let's get into this email. We have a question here from Bonnie, director of marketing, "What is the best way to invite folks to a webinar that will entice them?"

We're going to show you in just a moment why email is the best way, at least for Shelby. She's got some great numbers. But, let's take a look at what you were doing first. Shelby, this was an old email. What was the problem with this old email? We see the old email, and then the old landing page. Why did you change these?

Britton: The email themselves you can see there's old branding on this email, because this was a real long time ago. So that's been updated, and we've updated the graphics to be a little more sophisticated. There wasn't necessarily any problem with the email itself; the main problem here was the disconnect between the email and the landing page, because when somebody received this email with the nice pretty graphic and they clicked on register now they would land on this really boring landing page that didn't look anything at all like the email. So what we did was we revamped that and we made sure that the email itself matched the landing page, and that the follow-up email also matched both of those flavors and the feel and the graphics of both of those two pieces.

Burstein: And so now, let's take a look at that new email. So, here's the new email, here is the new landing page. And as you can see, the title's changed, too, "Using webinars for lead generation," "How to generate leads with webinars the sales teams will love."

We have a question from James that goes back to the titles we talked about. He said, “I understand changing the titles but did the content change as well, or did participants experience a bait and switch?”

So, do you want to talk about these emails and how, I believe, you changed more than the title. You changed your entire webinar program, right?

Britton: Yeah, we changed everything. So, this is a look at, we felt like once we changed and made sure that the email and the landing pages and the follow-up emails all matched, we had our abandonment rate when people landed on the registration site, that decreased. So, we had more people completing registration because when they clicked on our email and they landed on the page they knew they were in the right spot; they weren't confused. And so, we had a much better registration completion rate.

Now, when it comes to content, our solution webinars that talk about best practices are just that. There is no bait-and-switch at all. We don't have Adobe speakers on them. We have luminary speakers, usually authors or experts in the industry speak on our behalf talking about best practices. And, what we're doing there is we're adding value. At the beginning, we do introduce it as an Adobe webinar. There are a couple of things we do throughout the solution webinar that's talking about best practices, that passively lets people raise their hand that they're interested in our product in a way where we're not pushing it to them as a hard sales pitch. They can raise their hand on their own.

Some examples of that would be we offer a solution brief in a file share pod during our webinar, and they can download that solution brief if they'd like. We don't push it, we don't even mention it, actually, it's just there if they want it. At the very top of the hour after the webinar is completely over and we've done the Q&A and everything, we will invite people if they're interested in our product to stick around for the next five or 10 minutes to see a demo of our product, and that's it. That's as much pitching as we do at that point, because really at this point the whole goal is to add value and start a conversation and a relationship with these people, and draw in the right audience. Then after that, we invite them via another email a couple days later to come see a product demo. And, that's where we start talking to them about our product. We don't do it during the solution webinar at all.

Burstein: Speaking about not talking about products, we had a question from Rhonda. “What is the relationship between ReadyTalk and Adobe Connect?”

And, I don't personally know of one, but just to make it clear for you, Shelby said that they don't have Adobe speakers on MarketingSherpa, we cannot have MarketingSherpa speakers on, we just invite high performing marketers who's marketing their product. Today that happens to be Shelby, whose product happens to be Adobe Connect, which happens to be a webinar software. Again, it gets kind of meta. And here at MarketingSherpa, we use ReadyTalk for webinar platforms. So hopefully, that helps you understand the connection.

Let's take another look at the three-step process, because there is also a follow up here to the emails you send, and this is a good chance to ask a question from Bonnie, director of marketing.

She says, "Are giveaways a good tool, or does it make you look cheesy?" I almost thought it said, are giveaways a good tool to make you look cheesy. And I see here, Shelby, you are not using any giveaways or promotions. You're strictly promoting with the content, and the content itself is the value. Is that correct? What are your thoughts on giveaways?

Britton: Absolutely. So, our content is the value. It's the value that we provide in best practices, and tips and tricks. At our solution webinar level we're bringing in people that are experts in their industry, and are really acting as it's free consulting for an hour to our target audience. That really adds a lot of value, because they take away at least eight to 10 really nice takeaways from every best practice solution webinar we do, that they can really implement in their job. So, we never do giveaways.

And, I've done giveaways in the past, several years ago. And, what I found with giveaways was that people would sign up for the giveaways, and that's not really accomplishing your goal of bringing in quality leads, and that's really going to breed distrust with your sales team, because these folks are signing up for the gift, and not because they're signing up to see your product or learn more about your product. So then that really breaks down the trust with your sales team. So I moved completely away from any kind of giveaway, and we really focus on the content. If they're truly interested in our product those are the people that we want to talk to. We don't want them signing up to see a demo of our product because they want a giveaway. We want true quality leads.

You know, and going back this follow-up email goes back to the previous question about the sales pitch. This is a follow-up email to a solution webinar that includes the recording to the webinar because we of course want to give everyone the recording is they'd like to review it, or for anyone that wasn't able to attend for whatever reason; life happens. We send them the recording to watch instead. And in this email you'll see on the bottom right-hand side a couple of passive calls to action that are related to our product. One you'll see that we've invited them to the product demo, which is the next webinar in the funnel of our webinar program. And then we include a link to our trial and a link to have Adobe contact them. We don't bring a lot of attention to it in the body of the email. You'll see there's no real wording, but we have it there just in case, because everyone is in a different process in the sales cycle. Everyone's in a different stage, so we want to get everyone at their various different stages.

Burstein: Now that we've seen Shelby's high performing emails, we want to see yours as well. MarketingSherpa Email Awards 2014 is now open for entries. There is no entry fee, just go to Show us your awesome work before September 8, 2013. We've got some awesome prizes. We're going to be sending the best in show for lead gen as well as the best in show for e-commerce to the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas for Email Summit 2014 to give you a nice big prize on stage and to hear your case study, to hear your success.

If on the other hand you feel like you need some improvement with your email marketing, we can help you there, as well. There is the MECLABS Email Messaging Course. Our kind folks in our marketing department are offering a $200 discount now if you use that discount code 476-OC-3002. You go to

Here's another question we have, Shelby. “How far in advance should you start informing people of your webinar and how many follow-up emails marketing is best practice?” That's from Brooke, a marketing exec.

I looked at your webinar page and the farthest out webinar I saw was November 14, which is very impressive. I mean, you're really planning far and ahead with your content, and hats off to you on that. But, when are you going to start promoting that November 14 webinar?

Britton: Right. So, we start promoting our webinars anywhere from four to two weeks in advance. It sort of depends on the promotion that we're doing. We work with a lot of industry partners that are relevant to our target market, and they might start promoting the webinar four weeks in advance. When it comes to our own email promotions, we're typically in the two-and-a-half week. We start at two-and-a-half weeks and go up to the week before, sometimes doing a last push, maybe a social push a couple days before.

But we do, as you pointed out, have our content calendar for webinars done well in advance, so we've got the whole year planned out as far as the reoccurring events, like the product demo webinars, and the competitive comparison ones. Those are easy and they happen every month. Where we really need to plan out carefully our content, because it varies from webinar to webinar, is that solution webinar level, so we'll start three months or more ahead of time, pulling in speakers, getting them on our schedule, planning out our content, so that we have it all scheduled in a flow that makes sense for our funnel.

Burstein: OK, let's take a look now at the measuring Shelby did to understand what's really working. Here's an example of the spreadsheet and how she broke down different ways she was inviting people. One of the ways you're inviting people, Shelby, was through partners. And so I have this question here from B.D. with regards to design.

"What if you're promoting a webinar that you're not hosting through an industry association for example?" How would you design those emails, Shelby?

Britton: That's a great question, and I do that a lot. That's actually the promotion that I do the most, is working with industry associations, doing sponsorships and partnerships with them. And I really don't do anything different. What I do with the partner is I give them our content, they usually take the abstract, and they put, so there is a slight difference in that the partner is going to promote the webinar the way they promote their webinars, and that's the value that we get. Because they have a relationship with their membership base or their subscription base, and they're going to lead with their brand, which is perfect. That's exactly what you want. They're going to invite their membership on behalf of them and bring them into your webinar. If I do a promotion to my internal database or a rented list, or a list, a database that I've been building of target context, I'm going to use my brand, and lead with my brand, because they're most familiar with my brand and that's what I want to lead with. But we're both driving registrants to the same webinar, and during the webinar we're going to co-brand it. So, the internal slides are co-branded, so that people know they're in the right spot. Hopefully that answers that question.

Burstein: I think that's helpful. And, let's take a look at the breakdown financially of those partner lists versus a list rental.

We have a question here from Laurel. She's a marketing director. "What is the most effective way to drive people to sign up for your webinars?" So overall, Shelby, it seems that you learned email was the most effective; and then you want to talk to us specifically about which emails were the most effective?

Britton: Absolutely. At one point we were renting lists and there are two different types of lists. There's the list that you can buy of contacts that a list provider has collected. Then there's an opt-in list from a third party that has a membership subscription or a membership base, and they can send the email on your behalf, but it comes from them. Then, there's also these partnerships you can do with associations. And so, what we did was, at one point, we were doing all three. And, we sat down and we really did an analysis of what was the most effective, cost effective promotion that we were doing.

And, when we did the analysis, as you can see, the cost per inquiry was much lower to work with a partner that already had a relationship with our target audience. And the reason for it is because when they're promoting our webinar to their membership base they already have a relationship developed. And as we talked about a moment ago that relationship is so important when you want people to respond to you. You need to build a relationship and build that value before people will respond to you directly.

So, these partners we worked with brought in their members to our webinar on our behalf and we paid for a sponsorship with them. And, that tended to work much better. And, the money here was all spent on that solution webinar level; we were drawing people in to the solution best practice webinars. And once we were there, then we invited them down the funnel. And, we didn't spend any money on the bottom of our funnel. It all started at the product solution webinar level.

Burstein: And just beyond email, we have a question here from Carrie on #SherpaWebinar. She asks, "Can you elaborate on your social push?" Well, what did you do beyond email?

Britton: Beyond email, we definitely have a social push. We do all the typical things you would think of, tweeting about them, the day of especially, even an hour before drove extra registrants. Sometimes we'll put a blog up.

We have recently started a couple of best practice micro sites where we really tie in our social media like blogs. We have a blog series that ties into this microsite, and on that microsite, we promote the webinars. We kind of have it a little convoluted, but we don't necessarily use social media to directly push webinars. We see some registrants come in from that when we do that, but not as much as we do when we do these other efforts of partner sponsorships.

Burstein: We have a question here from C., in marketing. "How do you track the conversion to sale? What process tools?"

Maybe in about a minute you can give us a breakdown here. We see that very impressive 500% conversion rate increase. Can you give us a breakdown on your overall conversions and how you look into that?

Britton: Yes, we're using, of course, a CRM. We use Sales Force; we're using Adobe SiteCatalyst. Obviously we own the product, so we're going to use it. We do a lot of analysis through there, and routing leads and doing analysis with those tools. Of course we use Excel spreadsheets as well. We'll pull the data out of our CRM system and do some analysis in Excel files. But, you can see here the conversion rate here is based on when we send a lead into the CRM System we do some scoring and filtering with the CRM System. And that will route it to the correct sales rep, and the sale rep has 24 hours to follow up on the lead. And then, we'll follow it through the conversion to opportunity, and conversion to closed sale and revenue. So, we're really doing a revenue contribution, a marketing revenue, contribution model there.

Burstein: OK, and Mark, a president, wants to know, "What are some effective presentation ways, slides, layout, font size, is best to keep attendees interested and engaged during the webinar?"

So, we have about a minute remaining, but we've taken the audience this far, Shelby. We've taken them to actually getting people to attend the webinar, what should they be doing during the webinar?

Britton: If people attend your webinar and they're not listening to you, then you've wasted your time. So you're really going to want to put a lot of effort, your job is not done after you've promoted the webinar and got all these amazing registrants. You really need to also spend a lot of time planning your interactions with the webinar, how to make your content engaging, how to get your audience interacting with you, because if they're interacting with you and touching the screen and really asking a lot of great questions, then you know they're paying attention to the content, and that is absolutely a major part of the battle. So, plan your interactions every five to seven minutes; make sure you've got a lot of visual stimuli for them to look at, because they can't see the speaker unless you're using a webcam, or a video. So, really put a lot of thought into this, for sure.

Burstein: I always say, a webinars outlook is our enemy. We want you to pay attention to this webinar, stop checking your email. Hopefully we were able to do this today. Thank you so much for joining us, Shelby.

Britton: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Burstein: And, thank you to all you marketers who attended. Please fill out the survey at the end and help us improve these webinars. Thank you.